Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Product Management 101: The Role of the Product Manager


"What do you do?"

   "I'm a product manager."

"What does that mean?"

   "How long do you have...?"

The role of a product manager is complex, similar to any other professional role. If I had to succinctly define the role of a product manager, I'd use the 5W's to describe a product manager's responsibilities.

  • Define WHO is the customer
  • Define WHAT is the product
  • Define WHERE the product is going in the future and WHEN
  • Define WHY the customer should and will use the product (marketing)

This definition works for quickly informing someone of your job as a product manager, but to thrive as a product manager and build your capability as well as capability in others, a much more detailed job description is required.

I have been in search of such a thing in order to grow in my role as have others in my discipline. Senior leaders in Product at my company found the whitepaper "Behind Every Great Product: The Role of the Product Manager" by Martin Cagan at Silicon Valley Product Group. They shared it with the organization (both Product and beyond) in order to evangelize their vision for how the Product organization should and will operate.

This whitepaper has become my go-to reference for what success looks like as a product manager. While not an exhaustive reference, it provides a strong overview of both what a product manager does as well as how good product managers do it.

The roles and responsibilities of a product manager outlined in the whitepaper are:

  • Identifying and assessing opportunities
  • Right product, right time
  • Product Strategy and roadmap
  • Manages product not people
  • Represents product internally
    •    Evangelism
    •    Executive review
    •    Sales and marketing
  • Represents customer

The characteristics of good products managers that are outlined in the whitepaper are:

  • Personal traits
    •    Product passion
    •    Customer empathy
    •    Intelligence
    •    Work ethic
    •    Integrity
    •    Confidence
    •    Communication skills
  • Knowledge
    •    Know your customer
    •    Know your product
    •    Know your competitors
  • Attitude
    •    No excuses
    •    Defining success
    •    Nothing sacred
  • Skills
    •    Applying technology
    •    Focus
    •    Time management
    •    Written skills
    •    Presentation skills
    •    Business skills

Very few universities offer degrees in Product Management, so I will use Cagan's whitepaper as an outline for a Product Management 101 educational series with some additions based on my experience. I hope this will offer education for those interested in pursuing a career in product management, as well as those in a product manager or similar role that are interested in strengthening their craft.

Next in Product Management 101: Identifying and Assessing Opportunities




[the end.]

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